The Emerging Collaborative Enterprise

By Christopher Key and Allan Frank
January 4, 2021
Season 1, Episode 5

Chris Key, senior director at The Hackett Group, talks with Allan Frank, The Hackett Group’s co-founder, about how the pandemic has accelerated the evolution toward true cross-functional collaboration for knowledge workers and others across the enterprise.

Show Notes

Today’s episode of the “Business Excelleration Podcast” is hosted by Chris Key, senior director and global practice leader at The Hackett Group. Chris welcomes today’s guest Allan Frank, co-founder of The Hackett Group, who has over 45 years of experience in the information technology industry as a thought leader, business consultant, strategist, and operational executive. They discuss the emerging collaborative enterprise, and Allan provides an overview of how we got here and takes a look at the future.

The episode begins with Chris asking Allan about how we got to the current push for an emerging collaborative enterprise. Companies have spent decades reducing business costs largely because of the impact of technology. Allan explains that while business cost management is still important, the focus has shifted to business innovation, agility and customer experience. As technology has grown, its influence has driven at least four monumental shifts in outcomes.

  1. The first era came with the introduction of the mainframe as a driver for automation. This era lasted over 20 years. Allan explains it was a hierarchical entity that helped with back-office functions.
  2. The second shift point came in the ‘80s, with the introduction of minicomputers and PCs. For the first time there was a computing model that could connect personal computers to the larger enterprise machine. This is also when user interface and software began to grow and organizations could share data across their businesses. Allan explains the focus in this era was still around transaction efficiency, however, for the first time shared data could be leveraged.
  3. The third era, Allan says in his view, came with the explosion of e-commerce in the early 2000s. Now companies were looking at connections between organizations – not just in-house. Internet marketplaces popped up and the focus became optimizing end-to-end technologies.
  4. The fourth shift point is the social networking era, which coincided with the introduction of the iPhone. Our life is now shared and connected via the internet. Work is now performed with teams using collaboration tools.

Allan believes that now we’re living in the age of the team (the majority of employees prefer working in teams), yet few companies have capitalized on the way workers collaborate. During this pandemic, digital collaboration is imperative, and many companies are introducing more tools to integrate collaboration and communication. Allan explains his theory that there are two types of work – knowledge work and transaction work. Knowledge work uses tacit knowledge and experience to generate enterprise value, harnessing expertise to create, innovate, and analyze. Transaction work is about increasing efficiency and lowering cost. Allan believes that innovation will be better served by leveraging collaboration. Companies have spent millions on enterprise resource planning to make transaction work more efficient, but have not put the same efforts into improving the process of knowledge work. Collaborative processes are everywhere. What Allan is arguing is that strategically the knowledge workplace requires an entirely different architecture, tools and innovation than that which works for transaction-based work.


:54 – Chris introduces himself and today’s guest Allan Frank.

1:24 – Chris asks Allan about the emerging collaborative enterprise and how we got here.

2:38 – Allan goes over the four shifts in focus caused by technology.

9:17 – Chris asks Allan about teams and the group think mentality.

12:43 – Allan explains his theory of two types of work.

18:54  – Chris asks Allan if we need to fully change our perspective on knowledge work.